Atlanta

WELCOME!

Welcome to IFF/AtlantaAtlanta is constantly growing and moving, and so are we! Join us for meaningful classes, fun events, delightful gatherings and a chance to be part of an inclusive, welcoming Jewish community. Email Rabbi Malka Packer at malkap@interfaithfamily.com.

IFF/Atlanta would like to give a big, warm welcome to Becky Herring, our new Associate Director! What a gift to have this fabulous, energetic, passionate addition to our team. Come to one of our upcoming events to meet her!

LATEST BLOG POST

The REAL story behind having an orange on the seder plate! 
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c/o Industrious
675 Ponce de Leon Ave NE, Suite 8500
Atlanta, GA 30308
404-991-2238

Rabbi Malka Packer
 
 
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UPCOMING EVENTS

August 15, 1:15 p.m. Facebook Live with Shira Hahn of OneTable

Rabbi Malka Packer and Shira Hahn from OneTable will discuss fun, creative ways to celebrate Shabbat, different interpretations of the rituals and how to get nourishment to host a delicious dinner. Make sure you're logged onto the IFF/Atlanta Facebook page to be a part of the event!

Shabbatluck

September 8, 6:00 p.m. Shabbatluck in the Park

Come join InterfaithFamily/Atlanta, Jewish Kids Groups, In the City Camp, MJCCA Intown, Atlanta Jewish Camps, and PJ Library in Old Fourth Ward for a delightful Shabbat experience complete with singing, blessings, yummy snacks and an outdoor movie! Bring your own picnic and blanket, and get ready for a fun-filled evening! Picnic starts at 6 p.m., movie starts at 8 p.m.

apples and honey

September 10, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Apples and Honey Tasting at Grant Park Farmers Market

Taste test fresh apples and honey locally sourced from the vendors at the Grant Park Farmers Market as a sweet start to your new year!

September 12, 4-7 p.m. Apples and Honey Tasting at the Ponce City Market Farmers Market

Taste test fresh apples and honey locally sourced from the vendors at the Ponce City Market Farmers Market as a sweet start to your new year!

SEE ALL UPCOMING EVENTS >>


ONGOING PROGRAMS

Starting August 31 High Holiday Email Series

This series is intended to help you learn how to prepare for and celebrate the High Holidays in your interfaith family. It will give you chance to reflect on major themes of the holidays, learn about the holiday liturgy and discover ways to make the holidays meaningful for you and your family.

Starting October 2 Free Email Series for Parents of Young Children

You will receive eight emails over 4 weeks about how to bring spirituality and traditions to your parenting in realistic and meaningful ways. The email series will be sent four times a year, beginning the first Monday of January, April, July and October. Upcoming series starts October 2. 

REGISTER NOW >> 

 

CONNECT TO MORE RESOURCES


Read some of our latest parenting adventures. >>

Need information to help plan for an interfaith wedding? Interfaith marriages bring up many complicated issues, but you've come to the right place to find answers. Visit InterfaithFamily’s wedding resource page.

And there’s more! Cheat sheets for Jewish holidays, food and greetings.


Proud Partner of Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta.

 

 

August 15, 1:15 p.m. Facebook Live with Shira Hahn of OneTable Rabbi Malka Packer and Shira Hahn from OneTable will discuss fun, creative ways to celebrate Shabbat, different interpretations of the rituals and how to get nourishment to host a delicious dinner. Make sure you're logged onto the IFF/Atlanta Facebook page to be a part of the event!

Starting August 31 High Holiday Email Series This series is intended to help you learn how to prepare for and celebrate the High Holidays in your interfaith family. It will give you chance to reflect on major themes of the holidays, learn about the holiday liturgy and discover ways to make the holidays meaningful for you and your family.

September 8, 6:00 p.m. Shabbatluck in the Park. Come join InterfaithFamily/Atlanta, Jewish Kids Groups, In the City Camp, MJCCA Intown, Atlanta Jewish Camps, and PJ Library in Old Fourth Ward for a delightful Shabbat experience complete with singing, blessings, yummy snacks and an outdoor movie! Bring your own picnic and blanket, and get ready for a fun-filled evening! Picnic starts at 6 p.m., movie starts at 8 p.m.

September 10, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Apples and Honey Tasting at Grant Park Farmers Market. Taste test fresh apples and honey locally sourced from the vendors at the Grant Park Farmers Market as a sweet start to your new year!

Septembre 12, 4-7 p.m. Apples and Honey Tasting at the Ponce City Markey Farmers Market. Taste test fresh apples and honey locally sourced from the vendors at the Ponce City Market Farmers Market as a sweet start to your new year!

Starting October 2 Raising a Child with Judaism free email series. You will receive eight emails over 4 weeks about how to bring spirituality and traditions to your parenting in realistic and meaningful ways. The email series will be sent four times a year, beginning the first Monday of January, April, July and October. Upcoming series starts October 2.

Shabbatluck in the Park

Come join InterfaithFamily/Atlanta, Jewish Kids Groups, In the City Camp, MJCCA Intown, Atlanta Jewish Camps, and PJ Library in Old Fourth Ward for a delightful Shabbat experience complete with....
September 08 2017
6:00 PM -
Historic Fourth Ward Park 830 Willoughby Way NE
ATL, GA 30308

Apples and Honey Tasting at Grant Park Farmers Market

Taste test fresh apples and honey locally sourced from the vendors at the Grant Park Farmers Market as a sweet start to your new year!


September 10 2017
9:00 am - 1:00 PM
Grant Park Farmers Market 600 Cherokee Ave.
ATL, GA 30308

Apples and Honey Tasting at PCM Farmers Market

Taste test fresh apples and honey locally sourced from the vendors at the Ponce City Market Farmers Market as a sweet start to your new year!


September 12 2017
4:00 PM - 7:00 PM
C/O Industrious 675 Ponce de Leon Ave., Suite 8500
ATL, GA 30308

Ritual Tashlich Gathering in Piedmont Park

Community Rosh Hashana ritual Tashlich gathering in Piedmont Park.

More details to come!


September 24 2017
TBD -
Piedmont Park 400 Park Dr.
Atlanta, GA 30309

Promukkah 5778

Back by popular demand, join us for the 2nd annual Promukkah party in our funky Ponce City Market office space. We will have music, delicious food and drink, a fabulous photo booth, a....
December 16 2017
8:00 PM - 11:00 PM
C/O Industrious 675 Ponce de Leon Ave., Suite 8500
ATL, GA 30308

Ahavath Achim Synagogue
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Atlanta, GA
30327 United States
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Atlanta Jewish Film Festival
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Atlanta, GA
30339 United States
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Atlanta Jewish Music Festival
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30309 United States
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Atlanta Jewish Times
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ATL, GA
30328 United States
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Congregation B'nai Israel
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Fayetteville, GA
30215 United States
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Congregation B'nai Torah
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Sandy Springs, GA
30328 United States
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Congregation Bet Haverim
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30329 United States
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Rabbi Malka Packer 03-20-17

Seder plate

Anything boys can doAs a kid, my mother taught us to put an orange on the seder plate as an act of feminism. Around that same time, she gave me a hot pink T-shirt with rainbow sparkle letters that read, “Anything boys can do, girls can do better.” It was the ’80s and my passions for girl power, rainbows and Jewish rituals were ignited.

My mom, and many other feminists, passed on the famous origin story of the orange, that Dr. Susannah Heschel was lecturing in Miami, and, while she was speaking of feminism, an Orthodox man supposedly shouted that “a woman belongs on the bimah [pulpit] as much as an orange belongs on the seder plate.” And so, as feminists, we all added the orange as an act of resistance; a symbol of women’s rights.

But, alas, that story that I had heard and retold for decades was a myth

(IFF/PhiladlephiaÂ’s Rabbi Robyn Frisch discusses the myth here). And while I was studying at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, I was quite surprised as the story was debunked by my rabbi and I learned what REALLY happened.

It was the 1980s, and Heschel was speaking at the Hillel Jewish student group at Oberlin College. While there, she came across a Haggadah written by a student that included a story of a young girl who asks her rabbi if there is room in Judaism for a lesbian. The rabbi in the story replies in anger, “There’s as much room for a lesbian in Judaism as there is for a crust of bread on the seder plate!”—implying that lesbians are impure and are a violation of Judaism.

The next year, Heschel put an orange on her seder plate and shared that she chose the orange “because it suggests the fruitfulness for all Jews when lesbians and gay men are contributing and active members of Jewish life.”

The seeds of the orange, like other items on the seder plate, symbolize rebirth and renewal. And some folks have taken on the tradition of spitting the seeds to remind us to spit out the hatred experienced by all marginalized members of our communities.

Since the addition of the orange, other symbols have been added to the traditional seder plate (watch our fun video guide for what to put on a seder plate). Some vegetarians and vegans have added a “paschal yam,” in place of the shank bone, which traditionally represents the paschal lamb. Others have included olives for peace in the Middle East. And some have placed potato peels on their plates to commemorate Jews who starved during the Holocaust.

Most recently I learned that members of Rabbis For Human Rights, who work to support the under-paid and over-worked tomato pickers in Florida, have included a tomato as a symbol of contemporary slavery.

“We who believe in FREEDOM, cannot rest until it comes.” This year, as I prepare to lead the Passover seder for my family and friends, I am emboldened to add these various symbols to our plate as reminders of who is not free. What segments of my community are still enslaved? What human rights issues must be addressed?

I am empowered to take action and commit to do the social justice work to bring equality and dignity to everyone. In the words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “No one is free until we are all free.”


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Rabbi Malka Packer 12-28-16

Promukkah

This year InterfaithFamily/Atlanta hosted our first annual Promukkah: Prom-themed Hannukah party in our Ponce City Market office! The evening was a blast with rockin’ dance music spun by Russell Gotchalk of the Atlanta Jewish Music Festival, delicious nosh, a corsage/boutonniere making station and a very popular photobooth.

Highlights include dancing the hora as we celebrated the recent marriage of Baca Holohan and Kai Murga, some incredibly creative outfits with lights, wigs and glowing shoes, as well as enormous jelly filled doughnuts.

We celebrated the festival of lights with members of the greater Atlanta community including our co-sponsors: Moishe House-Inman Park, SOJOURN, the Sixth Point, Limmud Atlanta + Southeast, AAspire, Bechol Lashon, the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta and Honeymoon Israel.  Plans for next year’s gathering have already begun!

promukkah couple

promukkah

promukkah couple

the hora

promukkah dreidel

malka at proumukkah

dancing at promukkah


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Rabbi Malka Packer 07-22-16
Black Lives Matter rally in Atlanta

Rabbi Malka (left) at a Black Lives Matter rally in Atlanta

My face lit up as we entered the room full of glittery drag queens prancing around the stage, singing cheesy, campy songs. Sally Struthers was relaxing in the audience after her performance at the local theater (don’t worry, we got a photo with her); dozens of queers were laughing and holding hands and flirting and drinking. It was our first time at a gay bar since the shooting in Orlando and we felt at home. My partner and I have been shaken up after recent events and were thrilled to be surrounded by “family.” My heart was soaring as we arrived on the dance floor full of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and gender non-conforming folks. We felt free in our bodies. We felt safe as a queer couple. I looked around the room and saw beautiful loving souls celebrating life, celebrating love.

So, it surprised me when tears suddenly came rolling down my face. In that moment I truly, deeply knew what it meant to say, “We Are Orlando.” This tragedy could have happened anywhere at any time. Anyone could have been the victims. I hugged my partner close and sobbed on her shoulder. “This could have been us,” I thought.

As we left the nightclub that evening, I grabbed my sweetieÂ’s hand tight.

That night I felt heartbreak and pain, but it felt good to be with my community. And while I didnÂ’t feel safe, exactly, I felt at home with my people. Happy.

Like everyone I know, IÂ’d been shattered by the shootings at Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Like everyone in my community, I voiced my outrage, marched, cried. Being surrounded by my queer community and loving allies filled me with hope and connection. Connection to everyone around me. Connection to the Source of Healing.

Only days later, the world was rocked by violence, once again. Only this time it wasnÂ’t my people. This time, black men were killed in the streets. This time felt different. While I grieved with my Black friends and community, this wasnÂ’t my community. This was not my family. I cried tears for those who suffered from trauma, who were scared, who were victims of individual and institutionalized White Supremacy.

Malka at a walk against discrimination

Rabbi Malka (bottom left) with other local rabbis at a protest this winter at the capital against a homophobic “religious freedom” bill

My heart sank when I learned of the retaliation attacks against police officers. My head has been spinning. The world I live in has been feeling shattered, broken and in need of mending.

ItÂ’s been a painful month.

And itÂ’s easy to feel powerless. Scared. Angry. ItÂ’s easy to point fingers and blame and stomp and run away.

Part of me wants to run and hide and ignore the world around me and wrap myself up in the safety of my White Privilege. WouldnÂ’t that be easy? When I drive down the street, I donÂ’t have to worry about being pulled over. When I peruse through the grocery store, no one assumes that I am shoplifting as I carefully place produce into my canvas shopping bags. I donÂ’t worry for my brotherÂ’s safety when he is out in the world. IÂ’m not fearful for my nephewÂ’s life. It would be so easy, so simple to just check out and ignore the horrific news stories and be silent.

And part of me wants to hide in my femme, cis-gendered privilege. I can easily pass as a straight woman, avoid gay bars, use the women’s bathroom without being questioned or harassed and feel “safe.”

But I can’t hide behind my many layers of privilege. I can’t just run away. The tug is too strong. As a Jew, as a queer female identified cis-woman, as a feminist, as a white person and as a rabbi, I know that it is my obligation, my duty and my responsibility to work toward radical inclusion and social justice.  It is my duty to work toward tikkun olam, healing the world.

Today, I choose to be loud. To be a part of the solution. To take a stand.

And this is complicated. What does it mean to be an advocate for the queer community, a group of people of whom I am a part? My people. My precious loved ones.

And what does it mean to be an advocate for the Black community, a group of people of whom I am not a part? My friends. My allies. My precious loved ones.

How can I use my power and privilege to create change in the world? Not as a savior, not as a hero, but as an ally. As a fellow human being.

Today, I choose to take action. Today, I choose to:

*  Educate myself and my community about racism, about micro-aggressions, about White Supremacy and about White Privilege. About homophobia, transphobia and the bathroom laws.

*  Donate to advocacy groups like Black Lives Matter, Atlanta Movement for Black Lives Reparations Fund, Help Queer&Trans Women and Femmes of Color Heal, SOJOURN (Southern Jewish Resource Network for Gender and Sexual Diversity), Georgia Equality and Equality Federation.

*  Participate in rallies, protests, marches, vigils and spiritual gatherings.

*  Volunteer to engage local residents in community conversations about why updating our non-discrimination laws to include gay and transgender people is vital.

Today, I will challenge narratives. I will listen actively. I will love deeply. In the words of Abraham Joshua Heshel, today I will “pray with my feet.”


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Laurel Snyder 04-29-16

boys licking chocolate off their messy facesI remember standing with a few friends after my oldest son was born. We were talking, as new mothers do, about how hard parenting can be, how scary. We were comparing neurotic-helicopter-mom moments, laughing at ourselves.

I shared a story about taking my son to the doctor when he seemed to have a fever. “His temperature is high!” I’d cried to the pediatrician, who only chuckled knowingly and said, “Well, maybe you want to unwrap some of these blankets when he’s indoors.” Of course my son was fine, just overheated.

I blushed telling this story. My friends grinned. They had the same stories, of course.  About cutting food up (choking hazards!) into tiny bits too small for the kids to actually pick up. About perceived rare (thanks, WebMD!) skin conditions that turned out to only be heat rash.

But I remember, in the middle of all the laughter that day, someone said, “Well, who can blame us? It’s the ‘Jewish Mother Thing.’ We’re supposed to be anxious and neurotic!  It’s in our DNA!” The laughter continued, and then we probably all had some coffee, or wine.

As the years have passed (10 of them), IÂ’ve gone back to that moment a lot. Because it turns out that as a parent, IÂ’m not especially neurotic. IÂ’m the mom who often shows up with junky snacks, when other people have baked gluten-free, organic muffins. IÂ’m the mom whose kids shower once a week. My boys walk around the neighborhood unattended, own pocketknives and occasionally we forget to eat dinner.

Do these things mean IÂ’m not a Jewish mother? Of course stereotypes are flawed, inexact, problematic. But when I joined a Jewish Mom group on Facebook and saw the effort other Jewish parents put into the details of summer camp selection, perfect birthday cupcakes and finding the best specialists, I found myself wondering, and feeling a littleÂ… different. Outside the norm.

It never occurred to me until I saw so many Jewish Mothers all in one place that I might not be one, in the traditional sense. But of course this is absolutely logical, because I never had a Jewish Mother. My own overworked mom, raised Catholic in California—regularly left me at the library until after the doors were locked (it was fine, I sat and read on the steps). She didn’t make kugel and she didn’t speak in Yiddishisms. I rode public buses and did my homework (or didn’t) without anyone ever looking at it. I survived, and learned, I guess, how to parent a little haphazardly, with spit and tape. I learned how fine things usually are, in the end. I learned to avoid stress whenever possible.

But does this mode of parenting make me somehow less Jewish?

Here’s the thing—I am a Jewish mother. I know I am. Because I’m raising Jewish sons. And maybe what the rising intermarriage rates suggest is that we’re going to see a shift in the “Jewish Mother Thing” in the near future. Maybe the next generation of Jewish mothers, raised themselves by women from a more diverse array of religions, regions and cultures, will be less similar, less careful, a little less neurotic. Because they don’t have this “Jewish Mother” stereotype in their heads.

Or maybe not! Maybe all mothers are anxious sometimes and the “Jewish Mother Thing” is a fiction, a narrative we’ve crafted as a culture, a way of embracing and forgiving ourselves for our neurotic maternal impulses; a myth we perpetuate.

In any case, I want to take a moment today to honor us all.. This week, for MothersÂ’ Day, I want to say to ALL the Jewish Mothers of the world, Yasher Koach! Good job on your perfectionism, or your relaxed attitude. Good job on the homemade cupcakes, or the Ho-Ho you stuck a candle in at the last minute. Good job on remembering the dental appointment, or forgetting and rescheduling it because you took the kids for a hike that day instead. Good job on raising a diverse world of wonderful Jewish kids who will strengthen and alter and carry on our tradition. IÂ’m proud of us all.


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Rabbi Malka Packer 01-25-16

On Sunday, January 10, 2016, InterfaithFamily/Atlanta hosted a fabulous open house at our new office space in Ponce City Market. Over 100 Atlantans celebrated with us as we blessed our new home. After reciting the Shehecheyanu prayer, guests shared their blessings for IFF/ATL and our board member, Rebecca Hoelting, hung our new mezuzah from AtlantaÂ’s own Modern Tribe Jewish gift shop. We enjoyed music from the Pussywillows, thanks to the Atlanta Jewish Music Festival, ate delicious food from the markets in PCM, and hung out in our cool new gathering spaces like the meditation room, the green room with picnic tables, and a secret room that looks like the inside of JeanieÂ’s bottle. Everyone left with a florescent green Shalom YÂ’all tote bag full of goodies and IFF resources.

We are looking forward to more exciting events in 2016!!

IFF/Atlanta's blessing space

Shalom Y'all bag

Mezuzah hanging

Picnic area space in new offices

Rabbi Malka Packer & Laurel Snyder

 

Kids holding hands

 

The Pussy Willows performing


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Rabbi Malka Packer 12-18-15

Ponce City Market

It was just over a year ago that my partner, Mercy, and I were dreaming and praying as we co-created a vision board for the year 2015. Vision boards are one of my favorite ways to create sacred art; a display of what I want to manifest in my life in the coming year. After journaling and sharing our wishes with each other, Mercy and I glued pictures, colors, words and shapes that represented our hopes and dreams for the coming year onto a big white board. This process allowed me to surrender my wants over to the universe and open myself to the organic unfolding of my life.

Malka and Mercy

Mercy and Malka

My job and her schooling were coming to a close, and I was getting anxious about what would happen next. At the time, I was working as the interim Hillel Director at Vassar College and Mercy was completing her graduate program; we were gearing up for our next adventure together. There were so many unknowns—where would we get work? Could we both find jobs in the same city? What if only one of us found a job? Would we be able to find fulfilling work that paid a decent salary? How do we know if we should apply for jobs that we find to be less exciting? It was a very stressful time for both of us.

The combined images on our board served as a constant reminder of our dreaming process and kept us focused on our hopes for our next jobs. We wanted to live in a warm climate, walking distance to nature, with farmerÂ’s markets and bike paths. We wanted jobs that were spiritually fulfilling, close to home and that offered good health insurance. Affordable housing was important, and a progressive queer community was a must.

After months of searching, interviewing, traveling, rejection letters, job offers, tears and a ton of prayers, our visions finally came to life!

We moved into a tiny apartment in Virginia Highland, GA, this summer, just a block and a half from the entrance to the Beltline and a short walk to Piedmont Park. We have found spiritually nourishing communities, beautiful hiking trails and delight in the Tiny Doors Project.

And, most important, I found the job of my dreams!! I love the work that I do at IFF. ItÂ’s one of those jobs where it doesnÂ’t feel like work, and every day is full of exciting adventures and creative opportunities.

Malka at her new office

The new IFF/Atlanta HQ!

I am blessed to serve as a resource and guide for folks in interfaith families and relationships as the Director of IFF/Atlanta. I am honored to support and empower them as they make Jewish choices, meeting them where they are at in their lives and decision-making processes. Officiating at lifecycle events has been truly life affirming. As I work with Jewish organizations to become more welcoming and inclusive, I have found some incredibly supportive community partners!

And, I am thrilled to announce that we have just signed the lease to our new office space in Ponce City Market!! What a gift to have found a space that is a 10-minute walk from my home in the center of town.

While our office itself is quite small, just large enough for four comfy chairs and an end table, it is perfect for intimate conversations with couples, meetings with my fabulous project manager, Laurel Snyder, and catching up on emails. But, the best part is that we have access to so many incredibly funky spaces and conference rooms. There’s a meditation room, complete with pillow rocks (yes, big pillows that look like rocks) and a cozy space for intimate yoga classes and grounding meditation sessions. We are also looking forward to taking advantage of the indoor picnic table area—a perfect spot for catered meals, book groups and conversations. Lastly, we are already planning Love and Religion workshops and movie nights in the hidden party lounge.  With a big, long couch, silky pillows and a popcorn machine, it feels like the inside of Jeannie’s bottle!!

Atlanta office

To celebrate, we are hosting a fabulous Hannukat Habayit: a festive Housewarming Party, on Sunday, January 10, from 2-4pm. The entire community is invited (get more info here) to help us bless and toast our new home at Ponce City Market, and hang our mezuzah from Modern Tribe! We will be enjoying live music by the Pussy Willows, provided by the Atlanta Jewish Music Festival, and will serve refreshments from the award-winning chefs of the Ponce City Market.

Working as the director for InterfaithFamily/Atlanta has been beyond my wildest dreams. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve in a dynamic and diverse city. Living and exploring in Atlanta has been a true gift.

As 2015 draws to a close, Mercy and I are preparing to create our 2016 vision board. In preparation, we created a blessings jar—a spiritual “thank you” container, acknowledging the Divine for the many gifts we have received. On colorful slips of paper, we are reflecting upon 2015 and sharing our deep gratitude for: our adorable apartment, our incredibly awesome jobs, our spiritual teachers, health insurance, bike paths, healthy colons, colorful dreidel spandex, etc.

Next week, during the winter solstice, we will, once again, journal and share our wishes with each other and then glue pictures, colors, words and shapes that represent our hopes and dreams for the coming year onto a big white board. IÂ’m curious to see what 2016 brings.


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Cassie Morgenstern 10-26-11

Since moving back to Atlanta, my husband and I have been running around like madmen buying furniture, reconnecting with old friends, traveling to see family, settling into our jobs and new house and preparing for the kid-to-be.

Hectic is the theme of our life right now. Between CPR classes, baby showers, doctor appointments and pediatrician interviews, this tiny little baby in my belly has already squarely established himself as center of our attention.  But weÂ’re okay with that… heÂ’s just so darn cute.

This morning was no different as it was our first meeting with a rabbi of a local synagogue to discuss joining the temple and his views on intermarriage and conversion.  WeÂ’ve attended services at this synagogue a few times and both felt very comfortable, not an easy task for a family quite like ours.

After the usual formalities, our discussions varied from homosexuality and Hebrew school philosophies to Israeli politics and what makes someone Jewish.  It was not exactly what I expected, but I enjoyed the conversation immensely.  He shared personal stories of his own interfaith family (he is married to a Jew-by-choice) and inquired about our experience. His views on intermarriage and conversion meshed well with our own and his questions for us even made us stop and think about issues weÂ’ve never considered… Again, not an easy task when it comes to two people who have had nearly 10 years to discuss everything under the sun (and believe me we both are known to be quite the talkers).

The rabbi, of course, asked me why I havenÂ’t considered conversion and listened without judgment or interruption as I explained my personal decision not to convert.  Yes, my conversion would make everything easier and on the practical level makes complete sense.  I mean, I already live in a Jewish household, keep kosher, celebrate Jewish holidays, attend synagogue, know Hebrew and even lived in Israel for a year.  Come on, it is all right there!

But IÂ’m not looking for easy.  IÂ’m not looking for practicality when it comes to my spiritual needs.  IÂ’m looking for a relationship with G-d.  My own faith fulfills that need and until it doesnÂ’t and until I find I am fulfilled by Judaism, I have no plans to convert.  He accepted my reasoning under the caveat that the discussion, not only for conversion purposes, but for the overall role of religion and spirituality in our lives between us as a couple, our families, our community and internally never be over.  As a true believer in the art of good communication and continued personally growth, I fully agreed.  I donÂ’t expect us to know the answers to every hurdle we may face as a family and I want someone in our religious community I can trust to help us navigate the path ahead.

I hope we have found a home temple where we both feel comfortable, where my husband and our children can grow in their Judaism, where we can find a community of acceptance and support and leaders who guide us to better ourselves as a family.

Having a baby has flipped our world upside down in hundreds of ways already and I canÂ’t wait to see what this little guy has in store for us next.  He is making us better and opening our eyes to our greater potential every single day.

Before leaving us with a firm handshake, another date to discuss a mohel, a few booklets and a membership packet, the rabbi said he hoped heÂ’d see us in services very soon.  I think he just may.


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Cassie Morgenstern 10-03-11

From Tel Aviv to Atlanta: After our goodbyes were said, a few tears, a 12 hour flight and 16 hour unexpected roadtrip down the Eastern seaboard, my husband, baby and I are officially ex-expats.  The move from Israel back to the United States was a little tougher on me physically than I expected.  Sometimes I do forget I have to slow down a bit more than usual as I have hit my final trimester, but we are finally settling in nicely.  With cars purchased, house rented and boxes unpacked, we are now focusing on everything we have to do to prepare for our son.

Besides the usual, like the bi-monthly prenatal appointments, showers, birthing classes and decorating the nursery, we are beginning to research mohels to perform the circumsicion, a rabbi to perform the conversion and local synagogues to find the perfect fit for our growing interfaith family (in the middle of the High Holidays mind you!).  There is a lot to do in the next three months, but I think weÂ’re up for the challenge. 

I have already noticed little differences with being pregnant in the States than in Israel.  Because the birth rate in Israel is higher than in the U.S., I would see pregnant women everywhere and now I feel as if I rarely see another pregnant woman on any given day. In Israel, my OB was very dependent on technology and genetic testing to track the progress of my pregnancy.  I had an ultrasound and a blood or genetic test at nearly every appointment while in Israel, while my new OB in the States will only perform one ultrasound and will rely primarily on tracking my symptoms, weight and growth for the rest of my pregnancy. 

Oh and of course, Americans are far more aware of personal space than Israelis so the belly rubbing and uninvited advice from strangers has slowed quite a bit since moving back.  I have to tell you, I actually kind of miss it!


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Cassie Morgenstern 09-06-11

Deciding upon a name for your child can be one of the most fun and most stressful experiences parents-to-be can face during nine months of pregnancy.   Honoring family members, naming after favorite authors or television characters and the age old close-your-eyes-spin-three-times-and-point-to-a-name-in-the-baby-book are all perfectly good methods of deciding on the name of your child.

Even after all those discussions, you have to go through the obligatory fail-safe name rules:

“Nope, canÂ’t use that as the middle nameÂ… look what the initials spell.”

“No, that name rhymes with a part of the anatomy I do not want associated with my sweet child.”

“Hannah Hannah Bo Bana… Fi Fy Fo Fanna, Hannah!”

On top of all this, we, as an interfaith couple, have had extra “rules” to follow. 

First, of course, our Jewish child should have a Hebrew name. Per my husbandÂ’s Ashkenazi side, the baby cannot be named after a living relative, but should honor a relative that has passed on.  Per my husbandÂ’s Sephardic side, we should name after a living relative so that person may enjoy the honor.  Per my husbandÂ’s Israeli family, our child should have a modern Israeli name.  Per my husband’s Orthodox family, only traditional names from the Torah are acceptable. 

WaitÂ… what?!

Confused yet?  Then we have to take into account my husbandÂ’s particular sensitivity to names since he grew up with a very traditional Israeli name in the United States that turned out to be the name of a Disney character while he was in third gradeÂ… a girl Disney character. Poor guy. So since we plan on living in Israel and the United States during the childÂ’s life, the name has to work in both Hebrew in English (sorry: Nimrod, Dudu and Moron are out!). 

Plus, my American family has to be able to pronounce this Hebrew name (not an easy task with Southern accents).

After months of searching, throwing out names, rediscussing names, arguing and maybe just a few pregnancy hormone induced tears, we finally have a name for our child!!  Baruch Hashem!  We happily share the name with our family. Yes, sharing the name before the brit milah is a big no-no, but I think we deserve a break on this one.  What do you know?  They hate it. 

Oy vey, whatÂ’s an interfaith family to do?


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Cassie Morgenstern 08-24-11

Hello readers and fellow parenting bloggers!  I am excited to begin sharing our story with you and learning a lot more along the way.

First, a little about me:  I am an Evangelical Christian woman married to my wonderful Jewish husband for nearly 3 years.  Our interfaith journey together has stretched nearly a decade and has even brought us to live in Israel for a year!  Being pregnant in a foreign country has been quite the adventure in itself.  Did you know your pregnant belly is public property in Israel?  It has taken some getting used to random strangers rubbing my belly and exclaiming a hearty “BÂ’shaÂ’a tova” [in good time] or “Mazel tov” [congratulations], but I can’t say I haven’t enjoyed the attention.

Although I have no plans to convert and am very strong in my faith, I am very committed to my raising my piece of the Jewish family.  I am actually a parent-in-training as I am due with our first child in January of next year.  We canÂ’t wait to meet our little boy and begin this new chapter of our lives together.

I hope you enjoy reading my blog posts and of course I always welcome advice, comments and questions.  Until next time, IÂ’m off to pack for our second international move back home to AtlantaÂ…while 6 months pregnant!


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